By Michael J. Tomlinson (MT), CEO and President, BDI
One of the greatest challenges of leadership is knowing where to focus. Zoom out too far and you risk losing the pulse on your organization and even seeming unapproachable by your team. Become overly invested in your internal, day-to-day operations and you might appear myopic and out of touch with the market and social trends.
I recently shared 3 external factors CEOs need to focus on in 2023 to ensure their organization’s success, as identified by a recent CEO Consortium of both for-profit and nonprofit leaders. I would be remiss to leave us soaring high with only this birds-eye view. Now let’s turn our focus inward with a look at 3 business trends thriving organizations have in common and what these findings from the CEO Consortium can teach us.
Operations and Business Intelligence
CEOs today are thinking a great deal about the long-lasting effects of “The Purge” or “Great Value Culling” we witnessed in recent years. This extinction of both products and companies due to costs, supply chain issues and market condition changes has left many organizations feeling volatile and unprotected. The CEO Consortium found several solutions:
- “Legal up” and be covered. Leaders must identify how they’ll learn about what is happening outside of their organizations so they can ensure they’re adequately protected from within. Wise organizations should perform detailed annual reviews of their legal and finance teams, and their insurance coverages. It’s impossible to do this effectively in times of crisis – as the pandemic years showed us.
Takeaway → Organizations must be proactive in increasing their investments in both liability and catastrophic insurances.
- Identify reliable sources of information. Laws, legislation and business regulations change frequently. What processes do you have in place for identifying what’s relevant to your organization’s current and future well-being?
Takeaway → Make it someone’s (or a team’s) specific responsibility to seek out, assess, interpret and distribute vital findings with your leadership suite. Encourage all team members to keep their eyes and ears open to changes that will impact the organization and raise awareness internally as necessary.
- Promote a safe environment for collecting internal insights. Thriving organizations will promote a “see something, say something” protocol for both positive and negative information. Some will even incentivize productive communications and innovations to solve problems. At BDI, we recognize employees quarterly whose hard work has led to major cost savings or efficiencies. We also conduct employee surveys to gauge employee engagement and better understand what’s working and what’s not across all teams.
Takeaway → Thriving organizations offer multiple access points for collecting information and have processes in place for synthesizing, discussing and acting upon feedback received.
Talent and Culture
We are still operating today in a strong “employee’s market.” This means that for real talent, you must pay a premium. However, you can expect results and loyalty from your investment. The CEO Consortium suggested several ways businesses can increase the return on their investment in top talent.
- Position your team as expert thought leaders. At BDI, we have on average 20 employees who publish content under their names, whether through our agency blog and newsletter, or other industry communications. As a result, many are seen as voices of authority who can be trusted in their field.
Takeaway → Organizations are wise to develop the story behind their leaders, establish a leading cast and position them positively within the market to help recruit more expert talent and new business.
- Offer competitive benefits. Today’s employees are looking for – and may even expect – “best in class” benefits from their potential employers. This includes but is not limited to increased flexibility and employee choice, high compensation, growth opportunities and expanded insurance coverage.
Takeaway → If companies can meet these competitive marks, then they can also aggressively and effectively recruit and retain top talent. Thriving organizations are putting more focus on reorganizing talent and teams, analyzing their scope of work and refining their company culture.
Branding and Marketing
I would argue that recruiting top talent and successful brand marketing walk hand-in-hand. Organizations must have their story (the who, what and why) well-developed and codified so that it can be told masterfully – to prospective talent and new business. The CEO Consortium found several ways this can be achieved.
- Be consistent in your communications. Is your organization’s purpose and core values understood by your key stakeholders? If asked, could an employee accurately explain what your organization’s mission involves? If you answered no, then your organization is likely experiencing a breakdown of messaging internally that can be hurting your brand identity externally.
Takeaway → Make sure you have a brand style guide in place and that your organization’s core values and purpose are easy to communicate and easy to remember by any individual in your organization.
- Seek out endorsements. Even if your organization needs very little in terms of new business or supporters, you should be proactive about promotion. Gather testimonials from customers, clients and employees who have benefited from your products or services.
Takeaway → Consider formalizing a list of endorsers or influencers who are advocates for your organization and engaged in your work. Let others speak on your behalf about why they trust you and value you.
- Invest in social media. Today, social media is a primary expression of most organizations. Their social media platforms are an extension of their brand and a major way they connect with consumers or supporters and prospects. To thrive in business, organizations cannot merely have an account on a platform, they must be active in developing relationships online.
Takeaway → Identify 3-5 social platforms where your brand will participate. Consider building an internal cross-team workgroup to organize and execute your social media efforts. Encourage your team’s thought leaders to be active on LinkedIn and reshare your organization’s content for even more widespread visibility.
After discussing these internal trends at the CEO Consortium, I feel so grateful for my team at BDI who are always exploring how to more efficiently and effectively put these points into practice. While this is not a comprehensive list of what organization’s must do to thrive in 2023 and beyond, implementing any of these recommendations is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy.
Leaders, may we always keep learning, sharing and growing our organizations to reach their greatest potential! I hope you feel empowered by these findings from the CEO Consortium to lead your organizations with courage and resilience. The world needs your work, and I’m humbled and grateful to stand beside you.